Ideologically Diverse Representatives – From Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) – Named 2013-14 “Champions of Reform”
Washington, D.C. – Drug Policy Action released the 2014 Drug Policy Reform Congressional Voter Guide today, which grades members of Congress on how they voted on seven key drug policy reform votes in the US House of Representatives in 2013 and 2014.
The guide is designed not just to educate voters on which members of the US House of Representatives support drug policy reform – but also to send a firm message to elected officials that they will be held accountable for supporting draconian policies that exacerbate the worst harms of the drug war. Clear bipartisan support now exists both among the American public and in Congress for ending the drug war and letting states set their own marijuana policies.
The voter guide examines historic votes on a wide range of issues, such as whether to bar the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws and whether to allow banks to accept deposits from marijuana businesses. The voter guide also summarizes decisive steps taken over the last two years by congressional lawmakers and officials in the Obama administration toward advancing drug policy reform.
Over the past two decades, US states have passed dozens of drug policy reform measures as federal policy lagged behind. That started to change in the past two years, as the US House passed not just one – but five – marijuana law reform measures. No branch of Congress had ever passed a major marijuana law reform measure previously.
Political observers marveled that, in an otherwise-gridlocked Congress, drug policy reform appears to be one of the few issues that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. While progress was made in the Senate this year – most notably the introduction of bi-partisan legislation by up-and-coming Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to stop federal interference with state medical marijuana laws – not enough votes were taken in the Senate to warrant its inclusion in the guide.
"For the first time, a working bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives is on record supporting major drug policy reform,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action. “We are witnessing a fundamental shift in how members of Congress assess the war on drugs and are nearing a tipping point in favor of sweeping changes to US drug policy.”
Highlights of the 2014 Drug Policy Reform Congressional Voter Guide:
- Forty-nine Representatives voted in favor of reform on all seven floor votes featured in the voter guide and earned an “A+” from Drug Policy Action. This is unprecedented support for drug policy reform in Congress.
- A bipartisan majority – nearly 56 percent – of the US House of Representatives earned a grade of “C” or better. 179 Democrats joined 64 Republicans in supporting at least three of the floor votes profiled in the voter guide and earning a “C.”
- Ten Representatives who made major contributions to drug policy reform efforts in Congress and earned an A+ grade for voting in favor of reform on every floor vote were honored as “2014 Champions of Reform”. Drug Policy Action’s “2014 Champions of Reform” are Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd/OR); Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-48th/CA); Rep. Steve Cohen (D-9th/TN); Rep. Jared Polis (D-2nd/CO); Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-16th/TX); Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13th/CA); Rep. Thomas Massie (R-4th/KY); Rep. Sam Farr (D-20th/CA); Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd/VA); and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-AL/DC).
- Twenty-two Representatives (14 Democrats and 9 Republicans) were awarded an “Honorable Mention” for demonstrating leadership in the 113th Congress on drug policy reform efforts.
- Three Representatives were branded as Drug Policy Action’s “2014 Drug War Extremists” for opposing efforts by lawmakers to roll back punitive and counterproductive drug policies at every opportunity and earning an “F” grade for voting against reform on every floor vote highlighted in the voter guide. The “2014 Drug War Extremists” are Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st/MD); Rep. John Fleming (R-4th/LA); and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-5th/KY).
Drug Policy Action graded Representatives on how they voted on the following drug policy reform votes on the floor of the US House:
- Reform federal law to allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states where it is already legal without fear of federal interference. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment and it passed).
- Prohibit the DEA from blocking implementation of a reform to federal law allowing hemp cultivation for research purposes in states that allow it. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment and it passed).
- Cut the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) budget by $35 million. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment but it did not pass).
- Prohibit the DEA from undermining state laws that allow hemp cultivation. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment and it passed).
- Prohibit the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment and it passed).
- Prevent the US Justice and Treasury Department from implementing guidance to banks and other financial institutions on how to provide financial services to marijuana businesses that are licensed under state law. (Drug Policy Action opposed the amendment and it did not pass).
- Prohibit the US Treasury Department from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. (Drug Policy Action supported the amendment and it passed).
"Unprecedented support now exists on both sides of the aisle in Congress for ending the federal war on drugs and letting states set their own drug policies,” said Smith. “Drug policy reform is a winning issue for elected officials.”
Drug Policy Action is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, 501(c)(4) organization working to pass new drug laws and policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.